Bloomberg Law’s® extensive network of reporters and editors helps subscribers to stay ahead of legal
Sept. 17 — Unless there is an emergency, the police can't enter a home to execute the functional equivalent of a Terry stop, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled Sept. 16.
An officer in this case handcuffed Elvan Moore and put him in a squad car when Moore refused to identify himself after the officer came to the door and began asking Moore about a reported disturbance in the apartment complex parking lot.
In an opinion by Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum, the court said it makes “no sense” to block police from entering homes to execute arrests unless the officers have probable cause or consent but at the same time allow them to enter homes to execute a Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), investigative detention based on a suspicion of a criminal violation.
Responding to a complaint that a male and two females were yelling at each other in the apartment complex parking lot, the officer knocked on Moore's door and saw two females in the apartment when Moore opened the door.
Decisions refusing to extend the Terry exception to in-home searches include: United States v. Perea-Rey, 680 F.3d 1179 (9th Cir. 2012); United States v. Struckman, 603 F.3d 731 (9th Cir. 2010); United States v. Reeves, 524 F.3d 1161 (10th Cir. 2008); State v. Davis, 666 P.2d 802 (Or. 1983); and State v. Beavers, 859 P.2d 9 (Utah Ct. App. 1993).
According to the court, neither woman seemed in distress or asked for assistance, and Moore told the officer he didn't know anything about a disturbance.
When Moore refused to identify himself to the officer, the officer reached into the apartment, handcuffed Moore and led him to the police cruiser.
He was later charged with violating Fla. Stat. § 843.02, which makes it illegal to obstruct or resist an officer without violence. When the charges were dropped, Moore filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit, claiming unlawful arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted summary judgment for the police, ruling that the seizure was not unjustified.
The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the seizure was unreasonable.
The officer's claim that he had probable cause to arrest Moore necessarily hinges on the conclusion that this probable cause arose from Moore's refusal to identify himself during the course of a lawful Terry stop, the court said.
However, even assuming that the officer had the requisite reasonable, articulable suspicion to support a Terry investigation, the Constitution doesn't allow officers to execute such investigative stops inside a person's home, it said.
“Under the Fourth Amendment, the home is a sacrosanct place that enjoys special protection from government intrusion,” the court said.
“Dorothy may have said it best when she said, ‘There is no place like home,'” it said. “Though we are pretty sure that she was not talking about the Fourth Amendment, she may as well have been.”
Unless the police have both probable cause and either exigent circumstances or consent, they are forbidden to enter a home to execute a warrantless arrest, the court said.
“So we cannot see how law enforcement could enter a home to detain a person on reasonable, articulable suspicion of a criminal violation (resisting an officer without violence)—a much lower standard than probable cause—when neither exigent circumstances nor consent exist,” it said.
That finding didn't help Moore, however, because the court went on to conclude that the law on this point wasn't clearly established at the time he was confronted and arrested.
Qualified immunity protects government officials engaged in discretionary functions unless they violate clearly established federal statutory or constitutional rights, the court said. The right that Moore relied on wasn't clearly established, it said.
“Moore does not point to a particular Supreme Court, valid Eleventh Circuit, or Florida Supreme Court case that he contends clearly established that Terry-like stops may not be conducted in the home,” the court said.
Judges Beverly B. Martin and R. David Proctor, sitting by designation, joined the opinion.
Haynes & Laurent PA, Orlando, Fla., represented Moore. DeBevoise & Poulton PA, Winter Park, Fla., represented the officer.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)